Last Friday The Sun wrote: “That is for Lockerbie, Gaddafi” and “Rot in hell with Hitler, Gaddafi.” Less provocative, but still a symbol of public opinion other newspapers like The Telegraph ran the headline “Col Gaddafi killed: no mercy for a merciless tyrant.” While most of this flat earth is celebrating Gaddafi’s death, I ask myself whether this eye-for-an-eye self-administered justice can be justified?
Harry Mount from The Telegraph wrote: “It might be wrong for someone like me – unaffected personally by his evil behaviour – to be pleased at another human being’s death. But it appeared completely logical – moving, even – that those who had a personal connection with Gaddafi’s murderous regime should rejoice.” Even David Hartwell, a Middle East analyst said it was the best solution from a “realpolitk” perspective. In The Guardian he was quoted saying: “Gaddafi could potentially have acted as a lightning rod for resistance to the new government.” In addition, one feared complications concerning the trial, since Libya wanted to trail him as well as the international criminal court in The Hague. Even some Western nations certainly welcomed Gaddafi’s death, as they apprehended he could have divulged secrets about relations with European countries and oil companies. Tony Blair probably opened an extra bottle of wine for the solemnity.
In between the cheers and celebrations of the Libyans, solely a few voices uttered concern, such as the Human Rights Watch who correctly pointed out that the Libyan people missed their chance to hear Gaddafi’s account in a fair trail. But why should that be important?
Firstly, because the process of realisation and confrontation is imperative to make a country understand its history with all its individual and collective mistakes. This is even more important for a country that is still divided in its opinion over the “tyrant”. Now, that Gaddafi is dead, this process will not merely be curtailed, but one will also bury the responsibility for decades of despotism with him. Such a process of realisation cannot be too long or too intense. Even the Nürnberger Prozesse, which were conducted fairly, left many German’s with an indifferent mindset of innocence and incomprehension.
Secondly, the law and our moral conduct are interconnected and should mirror each other in the ideal case. Every decision in court should be the reflection of prominent moral conscience, the same way every moral decision should be able to become a maxim for jurisdiction (note: in the ideal case). The case of Gaddafi’s killing portrays a society which picks self-justice over jurisdiction, plus a moral Zeitgeist of an eye-for-an-eye philosophy. The worst bit is that this is not an eastern phenomenon but also prevailing in the wild wild West. Just remember how LCD displays announced Bin Laden’s death in between the jovial exclaims of thousands on the Time Square. It shows us that the public denigration and humiliation of our enemies is still necessary to reconfirm and reinvigorate our moral predilections.
Lastly, if we assume it was not the deed of an individual but by consent of the entire nation, it would be even worse. Since at the point where the entire country agrees to a rule of capital punishment, the country becomes, as Camus has already argued, a murderer itself. And that is to be avoided by any means. Not only because the state ought to be the moral paragon of a society, or as Camus wrote: “Capital punishment is the most premeditated of murders, to which no criminal’s deed, however calculated, can be compared”; but because it will create a new era on a soil with even more blood, a Rom on top of Remus bones.
While the corpses of Gaddafi and his son are being displayed in Misrata and the rejoicing crowds are dancing on the debris of their country, I hope that the bullets of victory, which are being shot in the sky, merely come back down as empty cartridges.